Mindfulness Retreat Weekend

I have been seeking out new experiences this year so I decided to attend a mindfulness retreat weekend two weeks ago at Mercy by the Sea in Madison, Connecticut. I have been there a few times before (see Contemplation and Renewal blog post) and it is a very peaceful place. I don’t know much about mindfulness or meditation, but I have been reading a little bit about the health benefits and thought I would try it. I chose a weekend retreat instead of a one day retreat because I wanted it to be an immersive experience. And it was.

When I walked into the room, I was struck by the peacefulness and calm that emanated from the carefully arranged circle in the room. There were 18 participants and we were led by Dr. Jerry Silbert and Roberta Silbert, a husband and wife team who specialize in integrative medicine. Members of our group came from Connecticut, New York City, Albany, Providence, and Massachusetts, and we formed community over the weekend. It was very special.

mindfulness circle

In the beginning I was somewhat apprehensive about the whole thing and didn’t know if I would be able to focus, sit still, or be silent. We spent a lot of the retreat in silence while following guided meditations presented by Jerry and Roberta. We took our meals in silence and that was very strange. We learned a lot of different meditation techniques that were surprisingly easy to do. Some of the meditation exercises were held indoors and some happened outdoors… it was such a beautiful day. There was sharing time at various stopping points where we went around the circle and talked about what we were experiencing.

mindfulness clouds

It got deep, and people were able to share what was coming up for them in meditation, and how it related to their lives. Some spoke more eloquently than others, but everyone shared significant things and it was truly moving. I had trouble getting the words out at times and chose to focus my sharing on my health issues, leaving a lot of other things unspoken, as that is what felt safe to me.

mindfulness shoreline

There was not very much free time in what was a very full weekend schedule, starting before breakfast and ending in the evening a few hours after dinner. I felt that closing in on me at times as I need a fair amount of alone time to feel centered in myself. Several of us broke away for a walk out to the road after dinner and we broke the silence and talked quite a bit, hushing ourselves as we returned to the door of the retreat house. It was very freeing.

mindfulness cairns

On Sunday morning, I woke up early and went down to the dining hall to get a cup of coffee. I noticed the red edge of the sun just cresting the horizon as I made my way through the rooms downstairs. So I raced upstairs to my room, grabbed my camera, and ran outside, like a little girl who has found a treasure on the beach. I watched the sunrise in awe and felt the presence of God.

mindfulness sunrise

The quality of the early morning light was ethereal and cast soft light and shadows over everything. I watched the light filter through the trees and felt that my life was taking another turn. I don’t know what lies ahead but I felt change and renewal on the horizon. Renew is my one word for 2018 (see Renew – One Word for 2018 blog post).

mindfulness light through trees

Art Retreat – Squam Art Workshops

I attended an art retreat last week and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I went to Squam Art Workshops (link) at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps on Squam Lake, New Hampshire, just below the White Mountains. It is hard to describe the experience in words.

This was my first time at Squam and it was amazing. 200 women from all over the country gathered in the woods, staying in small cabins, taking art and fiber classes, and enjoying the community of creative and kindred souls. I made new friends there and it was truly a magical and life-changing experience.

There was a beautiful dreamcatcher filled with wishes written on paper feather shapes, gently rustling in the wind. The wishes were added by Squamees from last year and this year.

“dreamcatcher”

There were chalkboards echoing the sentiment of the day. This one was my favorite.

Chalk board

This was West Water, our waterfront cabin tucked away in the woods. My cabin-mates were wonderful! We had a bat in our room the first night so we had to call staff at 11:30pm to come and safely remove him. It was a little scary but we were fine.

Cabin

There were several ice houses that store ice blocks harvested from the lake the winter before. Kept in sawdust, the ice blocks are used in the old fashioned ice boxes in the guest cabins.

Ice house

Paths through the woods led to classes and other activities. It was very special finding your way through the forest. There were chipmunks everywhere, the sound of birds was in the air, and you could hear the loons on the lake.

Path

The lake is magical and beautiful. We had a dock behind our cabin at the edge of the lake, to sit on, talk with newly found friends, and contemplate the universe. It was heaven. What more can I say?

Lake view

Here is the landscape painting I created in my class with Karin Olah. It is acrylic paint on canvas with fabric collage glued on top. I also took a knitting class and made a small shawl sample, learning new techniques. There were also spontaneous knitting and sewing sessions here and there with great camaraderie.

Landscape Layers

I made a short video, my first actually, of the panoramic view from the back of my cabin. I am so happy to share my impressions with you.

Believe – One Word for the New Year 2017

Believe - one word for 2017

I have chosen the word believe as my word for 2017. It has been a practice in the creative community to choose one word, or to have one word choose you, to serve as a guide for the coming year. This a simple way to say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new year. Your chosen word helps you to set an intention for the year. It can also bring you back to your center as you make your way along the path of life.

For me, the word believe has a magical quality. It means believing in something that you can’t see but that you know is there. It means trusting in the goodness of a person you hold dear and not doubting them. Above all, it means believe in yourself and have faith in your ability to overcome challenges. It means believe that the world is a wondrous, beautiful place and that we all have a reason to be here, however small and insignificant we may feel at times.

Altered card deck collage

I have been choosing a word for the new year since 2010 when I saw a blog post asking for everyone’s one word posted on Ali Edwards‘ blog at the end of the year. I remember trying to read all of the posts about everyone’s chosen word, but there must have been over 2,000 replies to Ali’s blog post. I was alone at the time and it was so inspiring and moving to read all of these heartfelt intentions for the new year. I felt connected to women all over the world. Ali is a scrapbooking/ life artist and she has inspired many, not only for sharing her creativity but for sharing her life stories. She makes the ordinary, everyday things in life feel quite extraordinary.